All eyes on France, but local German elections were also crucial for the EU

Leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party, Wolfgang Kubicki
If Wolfgang Kubicki, the FDP leader in Schleswig-Holstein, can boost his party before Germany’s September elections, it would bode well for the EU (source: dpa)

Ahead of the second round of France’s presidential elections, there was plenty of concern that Marine Le Pen might win. Many saw a Le Pen victory as the end of the European Union, but that was doubtful. The EU, though in a state of crisis (self-inflicted by member states that had allowed it to follow a path toward exaggerated and misguided harmonization), is not that fragile. A referendum in France would not have approved “Frexit.”

As it happened, the winner was Emmanuel Macron, a self-declared pro-EU candidate. He favors stronger European coordination through EU ministries of economy and finance, as well as centralizing sovereign debt at the EU level.

This would create a transfer union, most probably leading to a slowly creeping basis for a real disintegration of the European project. Fortunately Germany, under the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has so far fiercely resisted the idea of centralizing debt, insisting on the sound principle of national and local responsibility.

Martin Schulz is likely to be more sympathetic toward Mr. Macron’s proposals

Germany will have its federal elections this September. When the Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz as its candidate to go up against Ms. Merkel, it appeared that the SPD, which had been weak up to then, would receive a wave of voter support. Mr. Schulz is likely to be more sympathetic toward Mr. Macron’s proposals for centralizing financial functions and debt.

Ray of hope

On the same day as the elections in France, the German state of Schleswig-Holstein held local elections. Outside of Germany the election received little attention, but it was very important. Just as happened a few weeks ago in Saarland, Ms. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won, while Mr. Schulz’s Social Democrats suffered a crushing defeat. This is a strong indication that the CDU will remain the dominant party after September’s national elections.

Even more interesting, it seems the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the only party in Germany that has upheld economically liberal ideas over the past few decades, greatly increased its share of the vote, to 11.5 percent.

If the FDP enters the government, it would signal that Germany will maintain a sound economic policy

The FDP was once a stabilizing factor in German economic policy, serving as a coalition partner that insisted on sound fiscal principles. Unfortunately however, it had recently been marginalized. Over the past 10 years, it had even garnered less than the five percent of the vote required to enter parliament.

There is another ray of hope: the FDP’s leader in Schleswig-Holstein, Wolfgang Kubicki, who follows economically sound policies and has a dynamic personality. His party’s success in the state will strengthen his position at the national level. His growing prominence could help pave the way for the FDP to become a coalition member in the federal government after the September elections. If the FDP does enter the government, it would be a strong signal that Germany will maintain a sound economic policy, something essential for European cohesion. It would also help stall calls for centralizing debt.

The outcome of these local German elections might finally prove more important for the EU’s future than the presidential elections in France.

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